New study finds infant hearing test results may predict sudden infant death syndrome

July 26, 2007

SEATTLE: July 26, 2007 - One of the greatest medical mysteries of our time has taken a leap forward in medical understanding with new study results announced by Dr. Daniel D. Rubens of Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle. Rubens' study published in July, 2007 in Early Human Development found all babies in a Rhode Island study group who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) universally shared the same distinctive difference in their newborn hearing test results for the right inner ear, when compared to infants who did not have SIDS. This is the first time doctors might be able to identify newborns at risk for SIDS by a simple, affordable and routine hearing test administered shortly after birth. In the study, medical records and hearing tests of 31 babies who died from SIDS in Rhode Island were examined and compared to healthy babies. Rhode Island has a particularly robust database of newborn hearing test data.

The cause of SIDS, known around the world as "crib death" and "cot death," has eluded physicians and grieving parents for centuries. Responsible for many previously unexplainable deaths of infants usually two to four months old and striking boys more than girls, SIDS causes tragic, sudden death in approximately 1 in 1,000 newborns world-wide, making it the largest cause of death in young infants. In the United States approximately 3,600 deaths each year were attributed to SIDS from 1992-1999, according to an April, 2004 article in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. Death occurs during sleep, seemingly with no warning and no previous symptoms. Changes in infant care have been promoted including the "Back to Sleep" program discouraging sleeping on the stomach, and avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke. Various causes have been suggested, including disturbances in respiratory control and infant overheating, but to date nothing has proven conclusive.

It is known that the inner ear contains tiny hairs that are involved in both hearing and vestibular function. Rubens proposes that vestibular hair cells are important in transmitting information to the brain regarding carbon dioxide levels in the blood. He postulates that injury to these cells will disrupt respiratory control, playing a critical role in predisposing infants to SIDS.

The SIDS infants in Rubens' study showed a consistent four point lower score in their standard newborn hearing tests, across three different sound frequencies in the right ear, when compared to babies that didn't die from SIDS. Additionally, healthy infants typically test stronger in the right ear than the left. However, in each of the SIDS cases studied, the right ear tested lower than the left, reversing the test results of healthy babies.

"This discovery opens a whole new line of inquiry into SIDS research," said Rubens. "For the first time, it's now possible that with a simple, standard hearing test babies could be identified as at risk for SIDS, allowing preventative measures to be implemented in advance of a tragic event." He urges further research, adding "We must now fully explore all aspects of inner ear function and SIDS, and analyze testing frequencies higher than those currently tested by newborn hearing screen centers."

Previous groundbreaking SIDS research at Seattle Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center took place during the 1970's, when Dr. Bruce Beckwith was one of the first researchers to describe features of SIDS that can identify cases during autopsy, distinguishing SIDS deaths from other causes of infant death. Beckwith is highly recognized in the body of SIDS research, making his work among the most significant earlier published findings about the condition. "It has been my great privilege to follow in Dr. Beckwith's footsteps with this new discovery that creates the possibility of identifying SIDS infants before tragedy strikes," said Rubens. "Each new breakthrough brings us closer to making SIDS a condition of the past."
-end-
For more information about SIDS, visit the following Web sites:

http://www.kidshealth.org/PageManager.jsp?dn=seattlechildrens&article_set=21779&lic=57&cat_id=20056

http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/Sudden_Infant_Death_Syndrome.cfm

http://www.sidscenter.org/

About Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute, Seattle, Wash
At the forefront of pediatric research, the Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle conducts research under nine major centers and is internationally recognized for its discoveries in cancer, genetics, health services, immunology, pathology, infectious disease and vaccines.

Consistently ranked as one of the best children's hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Children's serves as the pediatric referral center for Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. Children's has been delivering superior patient care for 100 years, including advancing new discoveries and treatments in pediatric research, and serving as a primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. For more information about the Institute visit http://research.seattlechildrens.org/

Media Contact:
Teri Thomas
Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center
(206) 987-5213
teri.thomas@seattlechildrens.org

Seattle Children's

Related Infants Articles from Brightsurf:

Most infants are well even when moms are infected by COVID-19
Infants born to women with COVID-19 showed few adverse outcomes, according to the first report in the country of infant outcomes through eight weeks of age.

Probiotic may help treat colic in infants
Probiotics -- or 'good bacteria' -- have been used to treat infant colic with varying success.

Deaf infants' gaze behavior more advanced than that of hearing infants
Deaf infants who have been exposed to American Sign Language are better at following an adult's gaze than their hearing peers, supporting the idea that social-cognitive development is sensitive to different kinds of life experiences.

Initiating breastfeeding in vulnerable infants
The benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child are well-recognized, including for late preterm infants (LPI).

Young infants with fever may be more likely to develop infections
Infants with a high fever may be at increased risk for infections, according to research from Penn State College of Medicine.

Early term infants less likely to breastfeed
A new, prospective study provides evidence that 'early term' infants (those born at 37-38 weeks) are less likely than full-term infants to be breastfeed within the first hour and at one month after birth.

Infants are more likely to learn when with a peer
Researchers at the University of Connecticut and University of Washington looked at the mechanisms involved in language learning among nine-month-olds, the youngest population known to be studied in relation to on-screen learning.

Allergic reactions to foods are milder in infants
Majority of infants with food-induced anaphylaxis present with hives and vomiting, suggesting there is less concern for life-threatening response to early food introduction.

Non-dairy drinks can be dangerous for infants
A brief report published in Acta Paediatrica points to the dangers of replacing breast milk or infant formula with a non-dairy drink before one year of age.

Infants can't talk, but they know how to reason
A new study reveals that preverbal infants are able to make rational deductions, showing surprise when an outcome does not occur as expected.

Read More: Infants News and Infants Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.